Saturday, June 7, 2014

YOGI BERRA: REAL AMERICAN HERO





"It ain't over til it's over."

The incredible life of the man who coined that phrase is over. Yogi Berra, a baseball legend
and national treasure, died early Wednesday morning at the age of 90.

Berra was a hero to millions for his amazing accomplishments in Yankee pinstripes, but
to me, he's held in a much higher regard for a reason few people even know about.

I once thought he was one of the greatest baseball players the game had ever seen. A
3-time MVP, 10-time World Series champion and Hall of Famer, Berra had accomplished
things most players can only dream of.

It means nothing to me anymore. Nothing.

While scouring the Internet for inspirational stories on 70th anniversary of D-Day and the
Normandy invasion, I came across an article about Berra being honored for his participation
in one of the most significant and greatest events in our world history.


I said to myself, "Are you kidding me? Yogi Berra fought for our country that day? How
the hell did I miss that?"

As a baseball junkie growing up,  I was obsessed with playing the game and the history of it.
I memorized stats on the back of bubble gum cards and spent more a lot of time learning about
the great ones by studying the Baseball Encyclopedia. Every Saturday, I was glued to the
television for NBC's 'Game of the Week.'

Yogi Berra always intrigued me. He was a small man who put up some incredible numbers.
During my career covering baseball for various television stations and networks, I'd often
see him on the field and wondered to myself, "How the hell did this little, funny-looking guy dominate the game?"




Turns out, that wasn't the question I should've been asking. I should have been wondering
how anyone could fit so much courage into a 5-foot, 8-inch body.

Berra was in Normandy on June 6, 1944, right there in the midst of a bloodbath when
American troops stormed the beaches of Normandy. 2, 500 U.S.soldiers lost their lives
that day,  many of them cut down almost as soon as the front portion of their boats were
dropped down for the rush to fight the Germans.

Berra was just a 19-year old kid that day. 19-years-old. Think about that. What were you
doing at that age? Partying in college? Spending spring break in Daytona? Just chilling
out with your friends?




Berra was in a 36-foot boat with five other men launching bombs at the Germans to
provide cover for the troops rushing the beach among heavy gunfire.

Can you imagine the things Berra saw that day? Can you imagine what was going through
his mind when saw the ocean turn into the Red Sea from all the blood that was shed just
yards away from him? Can you imagine how frightened Berra was as a 19-year old kid.

Unbelievable.

Our country sure loses perspective when it comes to sports. We idolize players because
they appear to be super human freaks who can run, jump, and throw better than 99.9
percent of the population. We think they are super heroes because they are on TV every
night mastering a kids game.

Broadcasters talk about players having courage because they take a big hit going over
the middle to catch a football. David Ortiz compares a baseball game with a heated
rival as "war".  Good, grief.
 


Yogi Berra was once a baseball legend to me. Not anymore. He's a true American hero now.
After discovering Berra fought the courageous fight in Normandy, I will never look at him
the same. Ever

I admire Yogi Berra far more today than I ever did. All the baseball stuff is meaningless.
What he did for our country means everything.

Who knew? Now, I do. Thank you, Yogi Berra.

R.I.P.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

BOWE BERGDAHL: DO WE HAVE ALL THE FACTS, JACK?!!!!!!


After the lies about Pat Tilman's death and the saving Private Jessica Lynch story,  I've learned
not to trust what our U.S. government has to say when it comes to war time activity.  Having
worked in the media for as long as I have,  I also know how things can be twisted, edited,
and exaggerated to influence public opinion.

With that said, does anybody really know what exactly happened with Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl?
Do we know for sure why he left his post or the reason the government decided to pull
off a seemingly ridiculous 5-for-1 swap with the Taliban for his release?

I certainly don't. And don't pretend to.

But I do know, whether it be from age or experience or probably a little of both,  I don't stand
among the masses in this knee-jerk, rush-to-judgement world that we live in. The media and
court of public opinion have already cast Bergdahl as a sell-out and deserter who shacked up
with the Taliban for the last five years. They see his father with the long beard and tweeting to
the Taliban and believe he's a terrorist and traitor.


I'm sure if you had a child in the hands of the Taliban for five years, you'd have many sleepless
nights and do just about anything to keep your kid alive and get him home safely.  Imagine the
stress of dealing with having a son not only in a war, but in the hands of the deadliest people in
the world. Do you think Mr. Bergdahl wanted to see his son's head cut off or hanging
from a rope on a bridge? We seen that before, haven't we?

I'm not defending Bergdahl's father, but unless I know for sure  he was sleeping with the
Taliban and ready to commit some heinous crime on American soil, I'm not condemning him.

I'm not condemning his son, either.

I've read where Bowe left his post and wandered into the hands of the Taliban. Do we really
know that for sure? Do we really know all the details and circumstances surrounding the event?
Right. His own troops have even said that Bowe sold them out. And of course, that would make
them the first and only soldiers to ever be confused, misunderstan, or misinterpret an event
that happened during a war. Stress would never affect their rationale or thinking, would it?
Noooooo.


Most people read, hear, or see a comment by all the experts on Facebook and believe something
to be true. I don't quite understand why, but that seems to be the case more often than not.
Yeah, we heard then President George Bush tell us the Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction and
most of us believed it because, after all, why would the president lie? (We've known that answer
for quite some time. Most of them do to satisfy their own agendas).

And how bout  all those weapons of mass destruction? Nothing. All those high-powered
satellites and inspectors on the ground and there was nothing.

I believe very little the media tells us. They've certainly been wrong before, haven't
they? John King of CNN was more than a little off when he told the world the Boston police
had "arrested a light-skinned black male" in the marathon bombing case. Ooops, my bad.
King didn't bother to double-check his sources but instead just kept looking at his Blackberry
as he told Wolf Blitzer the marathon bomber had been caught.

The media was way off the mark in its initial information in the Newtown case. They gave
us wrong names, wrong death counts, and a wrong timeline. saying Adam Lanza killed his
father in New Jersey, went back to Newtown to shoot his mother who had been a part-time
teacher at the school (she wasn't) and then went on a rampage at the Sandy Hook Elementary
School.

Lara Logan of CBS just returned to '60 Minutes' after a seven-month leave of absence for
botching a story. Logan anchored a report in which security contractor Dylan Davies claimed
to  have been present and active at the Sept. 11, 2012, raid on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.  He wasn't.

'60 Minutes' wrong about something? No way! Way.

So, we should believe everything we've heard in this Bergdahl case? Really? Why?

Has anybody heard from Bergdahl on why he left his post? Have we heard his side of the
story? Man, the NBA had Donald Sterling on tape making racist comments but they still
allowed him to give his side of the story and explain what happen.

For some reason, the court of public opinion thinks Bergdahl is a sell-out and traitor who
allegedly cost six of his fellow troops their lives in the hunt for him. How the heck do we
know what went on a world away in a place we know absolutely nothing about?

Let the guy have his say. Get the facts, get the truth, and then feel free to condemn him.









Sunday, June 1, 2014

MARK REARICK AND THE END OF AN ERA



Mark Rearick is a New Canaan institution, as much a part of the bucolic Connecticut town
as Gates, God's Acre, and the great little station that trains Wall Street sharks, blue chip
CEO's, and corporate lawyers to and from New York City every day.

But in late June, Rearick, who is known to everybody in town as  "2-5-0",  a name given to
him when he tipped the scales at that number as a senior in high school, will head to North
Carolina with his wonderful wife, Diane, and put New Canaan in his rearview mirror. He
is retiring to the Tar Heel state for the next chapter of his wonderful life.

While the footprints he makes on the beaches of Wilmington will be swept away by the
waves of the Atlantic almost as soon as he makes them, the impact 2-5-0 made on
the people and the entire town of New Canaan will never be rinsed out. Ever.

2-5-0 is 'old school' New Canaan through and through and if  he had a food label pasted on
him it would read, "100 percent all-natural, no artificial ingredients added." He's as genuine
of a person as they come and a refreshingly unselfish character in a world often filled with
selfie-obsessed, self-absorbed people whose first question  seems to be, "what's in it
for me?"

2-5-0 not only graduated from the high school in town, but worked and coached there for
42 years. He was hired by the late, great athletic director Joe Sikorski in 1972 to operate the scoreboard during the basketball season and never left, helping countless students and athletes
through the often trying years of high school.

During his career at New Canaan High School,  2-5-0 coached a lot of different sports and
ruled the cafeteria. He wasn't the in-your-face, spray Red Man tobacco juice on your shirt-
type of guy Bo Hickey, another character and coach is, but 2-5-0 always told it like it was
and few people dared to cross his line.



I transferred into New Canaan High School as a sophomore and like so many students and
athletes, I gravitated toward the mountain of a man who put the "barrel" in barrel chest. He
reminded me of Merlin Olsen, the former NFL Hall of Fame lineman and broadcaster, in size,
intelligence, and towering presence. And yes, he even sported the heavy beard like good
ole Merlin that became one of his trademarks.

2-5-0 seemed to coach everything and New Canaan High School, but baseball was his
true passion and sport. He lived it, breathed it, and knew as much about the game as
anybody not named LaRussa, Torre, or Bobby Cox.

He started  the Babe Ruth program and probably coached, in some way, every kid who picked
up a a baseball in town. 2-5-0 is, was, and always will be New Canaan baseball. His impact
on the sport was that big.

And yes, there was "Chicken Street", a softball team in town he founded that was the New
York Yankees of the softball leagues in the area. It was a dynasty. Heck, I don't know how
many championships we won, but I'm certain we had more fun than 99 percent of the beer
leagues in the enitre country. If 2-5-0 asked you to play for "Chicken Street", it was considered
a pretty special honor.



Several years ago, 2-5-0 was honored for all he did for New Canaan baseball. People came
from all over the state to pay tribute to 2-5-0. I don't remember how many games and
championships they said 2-5-0 won and it didn't matter.  The love, admiration, and respect all
his former players, opposing coaches, administrators, and umpires showed 2-5-0 with was
enough to give you chills. The man is truly, truly loved by so many people.

And that's what it's all about. Nobody remembers the wins, trophies, or final records. It's the
impact you make on others and few people in the history of New Canaan High School have
touched as many lives as 2-5-0.

There will never be another 2-5-0, that's for sure.

New Canaan today is far different than the one many of us grew up in. It has become
extraordinarily wealthy and  now home to celebrities like Harry Connick, Jr. Paul Simon,
 NBC's Brian Williams, Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, and high-powered CEO's like General
Electric's Jeff Immelt and ESPN's George Bodenheimer.

2-5-0 is "our" celebrity, a New Canaan original who has, in a small way, connected so
many people to the town's past. He is a walking history book who knows just about
everybody who has passed through the tony town of 19, 000 and all the events and things
that helped make it a very special place.

I recently took a picture of 2-5-0 at the New Canaan High School and posted it on Facebook.
The response I received was swift and plentiful, many people chipping in with their thoughts
on 2-5
    • Stacey Smith Great man!

    • Vikki Stone Corliss Congrats to him!

    • Tina Swallow Gaines Wow! A true nchs legend!

    • Holly Nichols LOVE HIM

    • Perry Seelert Wow, the Fiver was a legend, who I vividly remember playing for in Freshman baseball and basketball......the belt was the "indicator" for any baseball signal!

    • Heather Bowler Now there is a name I haven't thought of in decades ! Best of luck to 2-5-0. !

    • Whitney LeGard Williams I see him regularly at the HS. He's still so cheerful, loves to chat about the good old days, and loves the kids. It's incredible to me that he could still be there, and yet, I won't be able to imagine it without him…I hope he retires somewhere that has a great baseball team!

    • Jason E. Green My freshman basketball coach, thank you for everything. We only lost one game that year, a great man!!!

    • Paul Karl Fiver - all the best to a true original and more importantly to a caring and compassionate coach and educator that "made a difference".

    • Samantha Loomis He is the best! Hope you can somehow share these great comments with him, he deserves to see them!

    • Laura Celaya Wilson A truly wonderful man! I am sad that my freshman son won't get to see him all 4 years at NCHS!

    • Billy Jalbert Wow...what a run. Congratulations 2-5-0...and enjoy your retirement.             

      Many of us will never achieve great wealth, but those with New Canaan ties
      are far richer for having met and known a person like 2-5-0.

      2-5-0, you are the best! You will be missed.